Seven reasons for animal welfare optimism in China

19 December 2014

With the news that China intends to introduce its first animal welfare legislation, 2014 has been one of the most positive yet for animal welfare in one of the world's most populated and bio-diverse countries.

Environmentally speaking, China is more self-aware than it has ever been. Young people, journalists, politicians, businessmen, academics, celebrities and caring citizens are all pushing hard for change and there is evidence to suggest they're making headway.

There is much to be done, but these seven steps forward over the last year deserve our praise.

1/ Animal testing no longer mandatory for cosmetics

2014 saw China revoke a law which made animal testing mandatory for all cosmetics manufactured in the country.

The previous regulations meant that international cosmetics companies wanting to enter the Chinese market were forced to test on animals, while being cruelty-free simply wasn't an option for domestic brands.

While testing on animals has not been outlawed, the option now to create cruelty-free brands could see increasingly aware consumers pressure producers into abandoning animal testing.

2/ China's biggest consumer of bear bile announces research into alternatives

Kai Bao Pharmaceuticals is a cornerstone of China's bear bile industry, consuming 18 tonnes of bear bile powder every year for use in a variety of medicines. In 2014, the company shocked the world by announcing that an astonishing $3.7 million would be spent researching synthetic alternatives. The move was hailed as evidence that the country's appetite for bear bile farming may finally be faltering and that companies are looking for more consumer-friendly cash sources.

Nora JamJack4

3/ Yulin authorities step back from supporting Yulin Dog Meat Festival

Despite unofficially supporting the festival for years as a means to boost tourism, 2014 was the year the Yulin provincial government finally had their fill of the Yulin Dog Meat Festival. Government officials were banned from openly attending, while a poster campaign subtly advised citizens to do the same. Most importantly, departments responsible for food, live-stock and public security were warned to be vigilant in their duties during the festival – a clear message not to turn a blind eye to the dog meat industry's rampant food safety violations. While much still needs to be done to ban the festival all together, the result was a dramatic fall in the number of dogs slaughtered from 10,000 to around 3,000 with wider public calls to end it once and for all.


4/ Bear bile farmer approaches Animals Asia to seek a humane way out of the industry

For those opposed to China's barbaric bear bile farming industry, 2014 was a landmark year. When bear bile farmer Mr Yan Shaohong, General Manager of a state-invested horticultural enterprise, approached Animals Asia to seek a humane way out of his business it represented the world's biggest ever bear rescue. But more than that, it showed that even bear bile farmers want out of this industry. The fact that the enterprise was state-invested showed too that within the government there are those opposed to the still-legal practice.

Animals Asia has committed to transform the farm into a sanctuary, allowing 130 bears to go from farm to freedom. The project will take years to complete, while caring for the bears for the rest of their natural lives is a decade-long commitment.

Animals Asia founder and CEO, Jill Robinson said:

"With this project, we want to show China's industrial bear bile farmers that a bile farm can close, be converted, and have a cruelty-free future. We want the Chinese people, who are against the industry, to be heartened and inspired by the possibilities this project represents. And we want to show, through working with a state-invested enterprise, that NGOs and government can work collaboratively to finally end bear bile farming in China."

A historic handshake between Mr Yan and Jill Robinson MBE

5/New laws offer greater protection to wildlife

In April, the Chinese government tightened regulations on the consumption of wild animals. Under the new law anyone caught eating certain endangered species or buying them for other purposes could face 10 years in jail. The revised law offers greater protection to moon bears, pangolins and pandas and should lead to the prosecution of those poaching these animals from the wild.

However, it's believed it won't offer protection to existing farmed bears or bears bred in captivity.

6/China's top zoo backs campaign against animal performance

With animal performance officially banned at China's zoos, it is an immense source of frustration that nearly 50% of state-run zoos continue to cash-in on animal cruelty by hosting animal performances. Yet a major breakthrough was made when Beijing Zoo – the country's oldest and most prestigious – hosted an exhibition of anti-animal performance posters created by Animals Asia supporters.

It's hoped that where Beijing goes, others will follow, with their influence being felt both by the six million visitors, but also by those zoos that continue to use animals in circus performances.

"Not born to perform" exhibition at Beijing zoo

7/ Hangzhou Zoo announces an end to animal performances

In November, 2014, Hangzhou Zoo, one of the country's biggest, announced that they would end animal performances by the end of the year bringing the state-run facility into line with a government directive from 2011 banning animal performances nationwide.

The move followed years of concerted efforts by Animals Asia in the province to publicise the animal cruelty inherent in performances. As recently as July 2014, our major awareness raising campaign saw posters erected in super-busy Hangzhou Airport which receives up to 23 million visitors a year.

Anti-Animal Performance, China